Dani Castillo


Manila, Philippines

Academic Interests

Psychology & Computer Science

Fun Fact

I love digital art and creative writing; I've written a 330-page long and going philosophical action novel set in my own Game-of-Thrones-esque alternate universe! 

Most people look puzzled when I tell them my intended areas of study. “Psychology and computer science?” They exclaim. In the words of a blunter person: “What kind of combination is that?” I discovered my vocation for psychology first. Frustrated by my inability to memorize dates and historical events, I searched online for ways I could improve my memory and hit upon psychology articles. Despite my initial skepticism, I began employing the techniques mentioned: making up stories involving the test material, using evidence-based study methods, and even strange things like wearing the same perfume during studying and the test. Fascinatingly, my grades and motivation surged.  

My curiosity only grew from there. From “how to be more organized” to “how to build self-confidence,” I asked questions and implemented the solutions I found. In addition to online articles, I began reading psychology books and taking classes. Over time, I learned the fascinating ways these seemingly miraculous “life hacks” actually took advantage of my own biological hardware.  

Thanks to psychology, I began viewing myself as a garden I wanted to continually cultivate. Over the years, I’ve accomplished goals I never thought I could. I learned to limit self-defeating thoughts. I gained a growth mindset. Most significantly, I made an amazing recovery from my years-long struggle with bulimia and depression. In the future, I know I'll grow even more with the help of the “manual for life” that psychology's insights represent. However, there are still gaps in the field's knowledge and deficiencies in its application. Psychology is a manual that is incomplete and continually being written, and I hope to be one of the authors. 

I believe technology can help me with this. Telehealth, for instance, is a way mental health treatment can be more accessible, and psychological research employs computer tools to accomplish important feats like predicting mental health-related outcomes. 

In the future, I hope to develop my coding skills in internships and enrichment opportunities while also exploring all the career paths that psychology has to offer, whether those paths lead me to a lab, a school, or a clinic. After Duke, I hope to gain a psychology-related graduate degree and learn how I can use my knowledge as a tool for good. Above all, I want to help those who struggle with their wellbeing. I was able to use psychology to resolve my hopelessness and carve out a better future, but millions of people still suffer in the same spot I once was. Ultimately, I want to give others the guidance I needed before.  

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

I love the endless opportunities and life at Duke. In many ways, it reminds me of New York: whatever you want, you'll find it, and there's always something new to do or discover, whether that's different people within interesting communities, the plentiful research and engagement opportunities, or the fascinating classes in niche topics I had never had the chance to learn about before. 

Dani Castillo
Dani Castillo